Shwetha explores life outside her home city (NYC of the US of A) and tells us what her nation’s capital has to offer. Read on for her travel diary.
After almost a year of exploring the Big Apple, we (husband and her) were ready to explore what the other parts of the country had to offer. We picked the nation’s capital – Washington DC. We left NYC on a dreary, windy, snowy winter day in December, a day after Christmas. The weather was anything but suited for a holiday outdoors. Nevertheless, we set out to explore what this history-packed city had in store for us.
As we got off the bus, we were welcomed by the large, expansive, beautiful, and historic Union Station – which was for a brief period of 2 weeks, one of the nation’s largest train stations, before the imposing Grand Central Station in New York, took its spot. Stepping outside, as we breathed in the cold winter air, we were greeted with our first view of Capitol Hill – lined with flags of the 52 states on either side. In front of the Union Station was the big Liberty Bell against the backdrop of the large Columbus Circle with 3 flag poles depicting the 3 ships that carried the Columbus discovery team to the New World.
Having finished our little tour around the iconic station, we were off to un-pack. After a lot of research we decided to go the un-conventional route. Instead of a hotel, which can set you back by a couple of hundred dollars a night, especially during the holiday season, we booked a town-house. It was beautifully decorated African-American style home with four-bedrooms spread across 2 floors with a full kitchen, individually rented out. After dropping our bags off and a quick bite at a local neighborhood bistro, we set off to the Union Station for our moon-light tour.
Considering the biting cold and whistling winds, we skipped the Segway tour and opted for the next most interesting one – the old-town trolley tour. We took the moon-light tour in our old orange and green trolley, soaking in night views of the historic monuments like the iconic Washington Monument, Roosevelt Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial among others. The trolley driver doubled-up as our guide too. He gave us a dose of history as we drove around the town, pointing to some very interesting tit-bits about the capital’s history, which you will most often not even find in your history books.
Day one was short, but we made the most of it. Day two was exciting as we headed to see one of the nation’s iconic defense structures – The Pentagon. We took the subway line that connected the city center to the Pentagon which is at Virginia. The metro connectivity is limited, compared to cities like New York, so it is best to keep your subway map handy and plan accordingly. Also, DC has strict rules like no food and drinks on the subway and the lines close as early as midnight on weekdays and on weekends they operate till 2 AM.
On reaching the Pentagon, we headed to pay our respects at the memorial for the lives lost on that fateful day. Photography is allowed only here, no pictures of the Pentagon building itself are allowed to be taken; tourists like me were constantly under vigil by guards walking back and forth, just to make sure we don’t try to sneak in a shot. From here the striking Air force Memorial structure can be seen too. For tours inside the Pentagon, bookings need to be made well in advance. When I asked the guard he said there is anywhere between a 4 to 5 month wait time at the moment!
Back from the Pentagon, we headed to the National Mall area, situated between the Constitution and Independence Avenues; to explore the historic monuments like the Washington Monument by day, the famous Tidal Basin, the red-brick Smithsonian Museum, and the National Gallery of Art. With peak winter upon us, when the day turns into night as early as 4pm, we had to be smart about how much time we spent at each of these attractions. As day drew to a close, we grabbed a bite and hit the sack.
Day 3 was our last day in the city and our morning looking nothing but a good-day-to-be-out. It was rain mixed with snow out, so heavily coated-up, we braved the weather. With a hot-cuppa in hand, we made our way to our second leg of the old-trolley tour, which started off with a tour to the nation’s most hallowed ground – Arlington National Cemetery, where thousands of war veterans have been laid to rest. Till this day every morning volunteers gather to place a wreath in front of every single tomb stone. This 624 acre cemeteries highlights are the tomb of the unknown soldier and the change of guard that happens at the top of every hour, the eternal flame at the John F Kennedy and Jackline Kennedy’s tomb, and the beautiful amphitheater.
We finished off our tour with a visit to Korean War Veterans Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial – dedicated to the bloodiest war in American History, Sr.Martin Luther King Memorial,The District of Colombia War Memorial, a bite of sweet DC at “Sweet Lobby” – winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”, a stroll on the popular restaurant and nightlife area of Adam-Morgan Street, a visit to the oldest standing stone house in DC – The Old Stone House, a quick zip along Embassy Street – true to its name, it has close to 50 of the worlds embassy offices lined on the both sides of the street and wrapped up with a visit to the historic George Town – the oldest part of DC, which has been restored exactly like it was, residents are not allowed to renovate/paint without the permission of an authorized committee.
Wow..this was our amazing tour of Washington DC. I must admit, I have never enjoyed history this much in my life, and after DC, I am a changed person, with deep interest in history that can be seen; not the endless pages describing stuff in my high school history books though!!
Have you got a story about ‘history’ to share? Comment here.